In order to get strong and lean, to achieve that ‘toned’ look, you’re going to have to live by a couple of simple guidelines. Eating “crap” all the time and watching TV simply won’t get you there so a few sacrifices are necessary. However, losing fat and gaining muscle is not as hard as you may think it is. Maybe you’re already training hard and eating well; putting in the time and effort. With just a couple of minor adjustments you can ‘fine-tune the machine’ and start getting better results – faster.

Let’s begin with ‘what to eat’; as it has a big influence on how we feel (both physically and mentally) as well as how we perform on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, as important as it is, diet is often given least importance.

The majority of people need a lot of coffee to get them through the day. Without their doses of caffeine they would feel tired, without energy or lethargic; and generally be in a zombie-like state all day. If this sounds familiar to you then you should probably make some drastic changes in both your diet and lifestyle. Keep reading…

First of all, it’s time to eliminate all the toxic stuff from your kitchen. Get rid of everything packaged, whether it comes in a box or bag and avoid all processed and “fake” foods; including all sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks, as well as the zero calorie ones. A lot of sugar, acids and other artificial ingredients are added to these packaged products that will ultimately hinder your digestive, nervous, and muscular system.

Instead drink water, natural teas (no sugar), coffee (1 or 2 cups a day), coconut water and unsweetened almond milk. Limit your alcohol intake to once a week at the max and avoid energy drinks at all costs. Do not underestimate the importance of sleep which goes hand in hand with a good diet and exercise/ work-out regime.

The next step is to find out where your local farmers markets are located because that’s the place where you should be buying most of your food. Not only will you buy healthier food, it will also be much cheaper than what you purchase in a supermarket.

The farmers’ market I go to does not have a stand that sells meat but if yours does, great! Make sure you stock up on enough local, organic meats and eggs to get you through the week. Alternatively, look for a good local butcher.

Another great source of quality protein and healthy fats is fish! In Malta it’s easy and affordable to get your hands on a great variety of seafood. I have fish on the menu at least two days a week.

Next, load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic. Keep in mind that fruit and vegetables do not stay fresh for long so you might have to restock on these halfway throughout the week. If you want to gain muscle mass then buy some potatoes as well; red, white or sweet. These are especially good for in your post workout meals.

Most farmers’ markets also have stands that sell nuts, seeds and spices; all of which are a great part of a healthy diet and an easy way to stock up on high quality calories and therefore I recommend getting a few bags per week. Personally I like almonds, macadamia’s, cashews and walnuts with which you can also use to make your own delicious and nutritious nut butters.

With one trip to the farmers market you can collect just about everything you need to eat for the week- meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.

Yes maybe you will miss a couple of your favorite food such as bread, pasta, candy, cereal etc. Just maintain some discipline; you want to be strong, lean, fit and most importantly healthy after all, right? After a few weeks the urge to have these foods will disappear and once you start seeing great results you will become more motivated to stay on the right track.

Does this mean that you can never have your favorite foods anymore?

Hell no! When you’re good 90% of the time it is ok to have a cheat meal once or twice a week and enjoy your favorite pizza and ice-cream for example. Be a little more careful with your calories for the rest of the day and try to time this meal if possible after an intense workout, so that you’ll actually benefit from it by gaining some muscle.

What it comes down to in the end is being disciplined and being able to stick to a plan. If you want it bad enough, you will make it happen – no excuses.

Watch out for the 3rd and final part of this article which will be all about training!

Leave your comments / questions below if you got any!

Farmers market Ta Qali, Malta